Booting Windows in Safe Mode

November 2016

Safe mode on Windows helps to fix problems or to remove malware from the system. Booting Windows in safe mode can be done by tapping the F8 key when the PC starts. Booting a Windows PC in safe mode should not be attempted without prior experience or technical expertise.

What is Safe Mode?

Safe Mode is a component of Windows that allows you to access your Window's interface without having to load unnecessary drives and software. It is the diagnostic mode of Windows. When you start your computer in Safe Mode, only specific components needed to run the operating system are loaded.
This implies that:
  • Safe mode does not allow certain functions, like connecting to the Internet for example
  • It also loads a basic video driver with a low resolution, which is why the screen may look different to usual
    • The desktop icons may also have changed location because of the low resolution

Why restart in Safe Mode?

  • Some malware files are impossible to remove because they are already running. In Safe Mode, only the necessary files are loaded and malicious files can be removed.

How to start in Safe Mode with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7

It is easy to get into Safe Mode. It is done while you are switching on (booting) your computer.

Use this method only if you have a single operating system (Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7) installed on your computer.
  • Restart the computer. The computer begins processing instructions known as the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). The display depends on the BIOS manufacturer. Some computers display a progress bar referring to the BIOS.
  • At the end of loading the BIOS, start tapping the F8 key on your keyboard (or F5 if F8 does not work). Do this until the advanced options menu of Windows appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, it is possible that some computers display the message "Keyboard Error". To resolve this problem, restart the computer and try again.
  • Using the arrow keys, select "Safe Mode" menu and then press Enter.

  • Note that:
    • If you are on a network and your system requires that you are connected to the other computers or to the Internet, choose Safe mode with networking option. Note that dial up connection users will not be able to use this option in Safe mode.

How to start in Safe Mode with Windows XP Home edition

With a Windows XP Home edition, you should first logon to the Admin account by disabling the Bypassing the Logon Screen .

If you have Bypassing the Logon Screen turned on here's how to turn it off:

To disable this function:
  • 1. Go to your start button, select Command Prompt from the Accessories list.
  • 2. Type in control userpasswords and press Enter. This command will launch the Windows 2000 User Accounts application.
  • 3. Go to the Users tab and check the box labeled Users Must Enter a User Name and Password to Use This Computer, then click Ok.

You can now boot into Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key. The password for the Admin account should be left blank in Safe mode.

How to start in safe mode with Windows 8 and 8.1

For booting in safe mode with Windows 8 and 8.1, please see this Kioskea How-to

Alternative ways of restarting in Safe Mode

Windows XP

  • 1. Got to your Start menu and select Run option.
  • 2. Type in msconfig command and click OK. The System Configuration Utility program will then open.
  • 3. Select the BOOT.INI tab located at the top of the System Configuration Utility window.
  • 4. Check the box labeled /SAFEBOOT and click OK.
  • 5. When asked if you prefer to restart the PC immediately, or Exit Without Restart, choose to restart the computer manually.
  • 6. Your computer will automatically boot into Windows XP Safe Mode when you will restart it.
  • 7. When you are done with Safe Mode, go to the Start menu again and select Run option. Type in msconfig and click OK.
  • 8. Select the Normal Startup radio button and click OK.
  • 9. When asked if you prefer to restart the PC immediately, or Exit Without Restart, choose to restart the computer manually.
  • 10. Your computer will boot into Normal mode the next time you switch it on.

Windows Vista and Windows 7

  • Close all open programs.
  • Press the Windows key + R. The "Run" tab appears.
  • Type msconfig and then click OK.
  • The System Configuration Utility appears, click on the tab. Select the Safe Boot . Make sure the box "Minimal" is checked and then click OK.

  • Then you will be prompted to restart the computer. Click Restart. The computer restarts in Safe mode.
    • This may take several minutes.
  • Perform troubleshooting in safe mode.
  • When you've completed your troubleshooting in safe mode, repeat the earlier steps to uncheck the "Safe boot".
  • Close all programs and restart the computer.

Safe mode with network support

  • The activation of the network support in safe mode can solve network problems
  • It can be accessed via the F8 button or the System Configuration Utility. In the second case, check the "Network" option instead of minimal.

Note that

If you are a novice, do not try to change any configuration settings in a Safe Mode environment using the Command Prompt. You could seriously damage your system. You can contact a technician if you are not able to boot in Safe Mode.

Related FAQ

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